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23 Things To Know Before Moving To Bend, Oregon

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Snowbrains

In the last few decades, Bend has really blown up. The city, which was once just a little resort town in the desert, has added about 50,000 residents since the 1990s. And while the growth has been quick, Bend has handled it in stride, carving out a special niche for itself.

A combination of rustic and up-and-coming, Bend’s beautiful landscape, budding arts and cultural scene, and recently-affordably housing market has attracted plenty of young thinkers, outdoorsy types, retirees, and young families, all of whom have heard tell of this not-so-secret secret.

Still, Bend isn’t for everyone. Before you pack up your ski poles and tent stakes and head for the hills, consider the elements:

The Outdoors

bend oregon

 trekkyandy via Flickr

If you know only one thing about Bend, it’s that the city loves the outdoors. Located in the high desert at the foot of multiple mountains, there are outdoor activities in Bend year-round. Hiking, fishing, boating, skiing, cycling, running, snowshoeing, camping—it’s all there, right in your backyard, and everyone is jealous of it.

Winter

snowcat

Of course, if you’re someone who isn’t into winter sports, Bend’s climate can be a problem. Though summers are sunny and warm (with the occasional hard frost because it’s a desert) and almost always stretch well into September, the winter in Bend can really drag on. Look for close to two feet of snow per year, and—gardeners beware—a super-short growing season.

Beer

bend oregon beer

szapucki via Flickr

Plenty of handcrafted beer brewers have sprung up in Oregon over the last decade, but Bend has truly led the charge with their immensely popular Deschutes Brewery, which was founded in 1988. Deschutes, which is now the fifth-largest craft brewery in the world, is in good company; with 24 craft breweries (and growing) in Central Oregon, you never have to go a day without a pint of the finest locally-sourced IPA available.

Wine

winesign

VIA ETSY

Beer gets top booze billing in Bend, but the proximity to the Willamette Valley means wine enthusiasts have plenty of Oregon-grown goodness to sip, too. Just head to the Wine Shop (that’s really a place) and ask for the best local varietals. Or, look into one of the dozens of tasting rooms located in and around town.

Volcanoes!

volcano

Bend, which is one of only three US cities to have an extinct volcano in its city limits, is largely built on the remains of centuries-old volcanic activity. Which means there’s pokey lava rock all over the place and also a lot of historical information about volcanos and even a pretty rad theater/bar called the Volcanic Theatre Pub.

Oregon-ness

bendspoon

via etsy

If you’ve never lived in Oregon, there are two things you need to know: There’s no sales tax, and people really are very laid-back. Bend is almost prototypically Oregonian, both statistically – in terms of median income and housing value — and culturally. Which unfortunately means…

Diversity

anchorman

…Is a problem. Oregon isn’t a super culturally diverse state, and Bend is no exception. According to the last census, Bend was well over 90% white. And while that is changing slowly, if raising your kids in an area with a lot of different populations represented is your goal, this may not be your place.

Dogs

Screenshot 2014-03-05 11.35.50

Man, people in Bend love their dogs. In 2012, Bend was rated the Dog Friendliest City, according to “Dog Fancy,” a publication that really knows dogs. The city earned the distinction thanks to its many off-leash dog areas, as well as pet-friendly businesses and establishments. Those who love dining alongside their neighbor’s dachshunds will get a kick out of the perpetual presence of pets.

Economy

jobs

photologue_np via Flickr

Like a lot of cities under 100,000 residents, Bend doesn’t boast a ton of industry, which can make finding a job hard. The city’s unemployment is higher than the national average at just over 8%.  However, if you’re into the outdoors and work as a medical professional or automotive mechanic, Bend can be the place where you achieve perfect work/life balance. The largest employers in town are the hospital, Les Schwabb Tire Centers, and the many resorts and hotels in the region, which serve Bend’s sizable tourism industry.

Tourism

bendoregon

Speaking of tourism, it really is a big deal in Bend. Resorts like Sunriver and Mt. Bachelor employ thousands of area residents, and serve the many more thousands of visitors who come to this desert paradise to escape city life. And while welcoming temporary masses of people can get a little tense, it’s worth it to get to experience events like Bend Oktoberfest and Central Oregon Beerfest.

Start-ups?

lateforbusiness

Here’s the thing about cities without much industry—they have great potential. For years, optimistic economists have been predicting that Bend could be the next big place for entrepreneurs. Already, startups have begun to crop up, employing all the smart young folks in high-paying, emerging tech jobs. As the population tops 80,000 and housing prices continue to drop, Bend could be the next Silicon Valley. Maybe.

Retirement

Snapshot 3:24:14 12:15 PM

Bend is all about retirees. The city goes out of their way to make it easy for folks to spend their finest years among the lava rock, enjoying the seasons and taking in the culture. And even though the median age in Bend is under 40, the retirement population is sizable at over 12%.

The Passes

Screenshot 2014-03-05 11.42.42

Living on the other side of any mountain range can make for tricky travel, and Bend is no exception. Located on the East side of the Cascades, visitors to and from the more populated side of Oregon can have some real trouble navigating snowy, icy highways like 26 and 20. If you do move to Bend, you’ll need a ride that can handle it. Be prepared to rely on your all-wheel drive.

GEESE!

goose

There are geese everywhere in Bend. They will terrorize you.

The Arts

bend oregon theater

Matthew Hickey via Flickr

You don’t need to watch “Portlandia” to know that DIY Fever is sweeping the nation (or at least, the nation’s young people)—and Bend is no exception. But instead of storefront after storefront of expensive handicrafts, Bend boasts a burgeoning arts community, centered around creative hubs like the Workhouse and the Belfry in nearby Sisters.

Forest Fires

smokeybear

U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

Smokey Bear says forest fires are a legitimate concern for Bendites and visitors. Train closures, traffic delays, and even evacuations aren’t unusual in this dry, desert area. And while Bend doesn’t struggle with the air quality issues of large cities, controlled burns and wildfires can cause lingering smoke in the summertime.

Alternative Reads

Screenshot 2014-03-05 12.04.35

Interestingly, Bend is home to multiple local periodicals, including The Source WeeklyCascade A&E, and Central Oregon Magazine, so you’ve always got some way to find out what’s going on. When, you know, the internet is down or whatever.

Remoteness

bendmap

Big city folks may crave a place to occasionally escape — which can be hard to do, when the nearest town of over 100,000 people is Eugene. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of proximity; Portland is about three hours (and a sometimes-dangerous pass) away, which can make getting some things (like new supplies for your MacBook) kind of a challenge. However, for some folks who wish to live a more off-the-grid life, it’s really, really nice.

Politics

donkey

DonkeyHotey via Flickr

Oregon has a reputation for liberalism — thanks, Eugene — but truthfully, it’s actually a fairly conservative state. Most voters in Oregon are registered republicans, and the same is true of Deschutes County voters; in 2012, Deschutes County went for Romney. However, the city of Bend is pretty evenly split, politically speaking, meaning that lots of issues, ranging from development to the treatment of the city’s water, can get contentious, quickly. Expect to overhear a lot of prolonged (and sometimes heated) conversations about industry vs. the environment while out and about.

Housing

bendhouses

fredsharples via Flickr

No one can seem to agree on whether or not the housing market in Bend is in recovery or not. Due to an abundance of growth in the last decade (you’re not the only one thinking of packing up and moving to Bend!), the market experienced its own bubble, causing housing prices to soar. They’ve begun to come back down substantially, making now a pretty good time to buy, though some realtors are wary about the slump. Click HERE to check out houses for sale in Bend.

Urban Growth Boundary

bendcity

 trekkyandy via Flickr

If you’re not familiar with UGBs, you’d better get with the program. These sprawl-limiting lines in the sand are the law of the land in Oregon — though Bend’s population boom has created a need for expansion. They’ve even got a task force for the proposal to change or alter the UGB, which is a big topic in town.

Food

bendburger

leesean via Flickr

For a small-ish place, Bend has a surprisingly great restaurant scene. Hopping on food trends like mobile dining (read: food carts) and local, sustainable sourcing, Bend is replete with places to eat. In fact, the Huffington Post noted that it was one of the top cities when it comes to restaurants per capita. The city’s official website touts some of the top spots.

Bend Sux

bendsux

via Bend Sux

For years, one 25-year resident tirelessly documented his many complaints about Bend on the blog Bend Sux. Naturally, folks wondered why he stuck around so long if he hated it so much, but he was something of a local joke/celeb, so most of the city tolerated him. Or maybe they were just happy to see someone — anyone! — writing about Bend on the internet. Either way, rumor has it that H. Bruce Miller has finally left for fairer weather, which seems to be the case, as he hasn’t updated the site in over a year.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Gary

    Nope, Bend is a horrible place. Don’t come here!!

  • DGD

    I agree with Gary…”it’s a horrible place.” Stay away.

  • Larry

    Property taxes increase 3% a year so please don’t move here!

  • doc

    bone of contention, Oregon. I was born here and all you newbies wrecked it. Cesspools like Cali and Seattle have ruined a perfect little hamlet. Go hug a tree somewhere else Aholes!

  • G

    Left this place for North Idaho – Would not go back – all the newbies ruined it. Just don’t follow.

  • gdm

    The first paragraph is laughable. Before Bend “blew up” it was not a resort town. It was a lumber mill town.

  • Autumn

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but my family has been here twenty years and we love it! You have to be aware and comfortable with a constantly changing environment. It’s a beautiful city and it’s constantly growing. If you’re not prepared for that, don’t come. People in Bend are genuinely kind and have manners. If you’re trying to pull your car out on a busy street and can’t find an opening, someone WILL stop, and most likely it’s accompanied with a smile and a wave. People are considerate and concerned with the safety here and it’s awesome! If you’re really into night life, this might not be your place but if you’re looking for the feel of a tiny Portland with a lot of dining and recreation options, plus a lot kinder people…then you’ll find that here. If you like being in town, great! If not, there’s tons of ways to live comfortably in a quiet, peaceful area and still be within a comfortable distance from town. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Come here in the summer time and experience it for yourself! Munch N’ Music is always entertaining along with the street fairs, farmer’s markets, and various local celebrations. The breweries are amazing and Bend has really adjusted gracefully to things such as Vegan, Vegetarian, Organic, and Gluten-Free lifestyles. If you’re someone who wants a fast paced life and likes to rush everywhere while being a dick in the process, PLEASE don’t come here. On the other hand, if you like a quiet life, with plenty of options for things to do, and possibly a place to raise your kids without constantly questioning your safety…please be a part of this amazing city! Coming from someone who has been raised here since 8 months old and spent the last two years living in different towns…I know right now, I’m going to be happy to live and die in Bend when that time comes!

  • 2728

    Autumns a idiot

  • SED

    *an

  • mmccowan91

    Haha I love people like you. I moved here from Northern California to go to the local college and I knew about the city because I have family here and I spent most of my summers in bend…it’s a cool town but more often than not I find an overwhelming number if citizens totally ignorant and more simply put lack common sense. While I’m bitching I won’t hesitate to point out how terrible Oregonians are at driving…it drives me nuts. Btw this Californian just helped put out your wildfire that burned 2600 acres out on the west side of town. You guys can have your bend I’m gonna go back home to South Lake Tahoe:)

  • Anthony21

    Hows NID?

  • Chad

    Totally racist! Are you writing the same drivel regarding diversity about towns that are 80%+ Hispanic or black? Are you willing to say that’s a bad thing and those numbers need to decline just like you did in this article about whites? So any town that is 90% white must be diluted? So what % of white people IS acceptable to you? You’re either a racist piece if shit or a brainwashed self-loathing white person. Stick your diversity (which ALWAYS means anti-white to you jackals) straight up your racist/self-hating ass.

  • James Wangsness

    Haven’t you seen the bumper sticker: Your vacation is our life? Get over it. My experience has been that most of these out of the way paradises that have your attitude are the ones who tailgate, are extremely impatient and rude on the road, and are usually if not always from “somewhere else”–not from Cali which is the capital of Columbia.

  • logicaldogs

    Reading what you all have written I am totally confused, I am moving there in like two weeks, sight unseen (long story) haved lived in N Cal, loved it, now in DC area, and there is plenty of the sentiment that newcomers, or carpet baggers have ruined it. I’m a therapist and I must admit the idea of needing to “Be nice” pisses me off, I hope there are some normal people also..

  • Jay

    Born and Raised in Bend, Graduated from Bend High and found that the pastures there were not as green as I had liked. The economy swelled and home costs went thru the roof. The lack of good paying jobs was a determent to the community. I left over thirty years ago, I visit family from time to time but have found Bend to no longer the sleepy community (Mill Town) that I had grown up in. That is a shame, as the new people moved in they brought with them some good and some bad. I wished I was able to come back but as they say, “you can never go back home” too much change for my taste.

  • Marc

    Don’t sweat it. People are nice. Scenery is awesome. Plenty to do, indoors and out. Moved here over a decade ago from Orange County and dig it.

  • Whispering Metalworks

    Hey, I recognize that garden marker spoon. We made that! While in Bend, be sure to support your local mom and pop businesses. http://www.whisperingmetalworks.com

  • Neil Cobern

    he speaks the truth its a black hole if you come you will never leave!
    its fine you love poverty with a view..

  • tbj

    Don’t listen to what people are saying! Bend is a beautiful place and people are just being selfish and do not want anymore people to move here! Well news flash—— we have a 4 year college going in, therefore alot more people will be moving here anyways!

  • Candace

    I’m moving up bend In two months after four years of wanting to go! My mom lives in redmond for the past 13 years, and I think it’s just gotten better out there. At least from what I’ve seen when I visit. So many negative Nancy’s, try living in so cal where you get paid similar or less here compared to there and you can’t rent a one bedroom apartment in a bad area for less than 1200 a month. It’s truly sad a lot of my friends are pushing 30 and can’t move out without three roommates. I know this happens everywhere but honestly it’s the norm here.

  • LiveLaughLove

    My family and I just moved here and aside from the idiot drivers, occasional rude people..We love it..My family has lived here 5yrs and finally we sold our home in Missouri which was the best dission ever. I love that its family affiliated..Everyone rides bikes. Just a ton to do. Some are right buying a home here is very difficult or even rwnting because everything is priced high BUT you only live once. Hope this helps anyone coming to visit or live :)